Nine Tips for Your Next Mailing

For over 85 years, United GMG has been offering expertise in design, print and mail services to nonprofits and businesses. It is a family owned and operated company located in Chicago serving customers nationwide.

There are many factors that can complicate a direct mail project. In this blog series, I’ve offered nine tips and tools to ensure your next mail appeal process runs smoothly, delivers on time and remains within budget. In the first of these four posts, I will discuss design tips.

Consider Your Design

  • 1. Does your project design fit the chosen paper size? By considering your space usage and design you can often reduce paper size, saving your organization as much as 25%.
  • 2. Have you considered the weight of the finished piece? When working on a mailing, it’s important to remember that you cannot always use a regular stamp, especially with invitations and newsletters. The weight of the finished piece can directly impact the cost of postage. Often, postage can be a significant portion of your overall expense. Reducing cost on postage starts in the design process.
  • 3. Sometimes designers recommend paper that is very expensive. Ask your print salesman if there are other options that will provide the same look and quality, as often there are less expensive choices. Your invitees and donors generally will not be able to tell that you are using a less expensive paper.
    Stay tuned for Part II of this series in which we will discuss the preparation of files for the print/mail process.

Preparing files for the printer

  • 4. One of the most important ways to keep your print/mail project on time and within budget is proper file preparation. Most printers prefer a print ready PDF file sent with specific instructions for each job. What is a “print ready PDF”? Your designer or graphic artist will most likely be working in InDesign or Adobe Illustrator when creating your print piece. Once it is complete, they export the file into a PDF. Be sure to include the following in the export:
    • a. Embed or outline the fonts used
    • b. Include 1/8” (.125) bleed marks (if there are bleeds)
    • c. Include bleed and crop marks
    • d. Save the file as single pages and never reader spreads

Poofs and Timelines

  • 5. Before you can complete your project timeline, be sure you understand the production time required. If a printer tells you a project will take 3 days, this generally begins when the final proofs are approved. It does not include proof or alteration time. Below are some good questions to ask:
    • e. When will I receive proofs?
    • f. Once proofs are approved, how long until this piece(s) is printed?
    • g. If we need to make alterations, how long will they take and when will you have the new proof (always request an estimate for alterations – if you have a designer on staff, it might be cheaper and quicker for you to make the changes in house)?
    • h. When do I need to submit my mailing list to the mail house?
    • i. When will the mailing drop at the post office?
  • 6. Proofing is one of the most important steps in the process. They can be submitted as electronic PDFs or they can be physical hard copies. When possible, it is always best to receive a physical proof so that you can ensure the colors are correct and that the fold or trim is accurate. A physical proof does require more time and it is usually delivered on proofing paper – different than the paper you will use for your project. If you want a physical proof, be sure to include an extra day on your timeline for approval.

In this final section of this blog post on printing and mailing tips, we’ll discuss postage, an often overlooked, but important step in the process.


  • 7. As mentioned in Part I, postage can be a major expense in your print/mail project budget. It is important maximize any discounts available to you. There are several presort discount options, but in order to qualify you must send your project to a mail house or find a printer who does this (or sort yourself, which can be timely and confusing). Mail houses will sort by zip code and verify addresses through NCOA and CASS according to post office standards.
  • 8. Take time to understand which class of postage you want or need. See below for possible options:
    • j. First Class: To qualify for a first class presort discount you must mail a minimum of 500 pieces. You receive the same discount whether you choose to stamp your piece or choose to use a mailing indicia. Expect your mailing to be delivered within 2-4 days.
    • k. Standard: To qualify for standard mail you must mail a minimum of 200 pieces. However, sometimes it will be less expensive to mail 200 pieces yourself with first class postage because mail houses charge a processing fee. You’ll have to weigh the savings benefits vs. the added cost. Expect your mailing to be delivered within 7-10 days.
    • l. Nonprofit: To qualify for a nonprofit presort discount you must mail a minimum of 200 pieces and you must have a nonprofit authorization number from the post office. You must apply for an authorization number several months prior to the mailing. Your mail house will most likely be able to help you with this process. Expect your mailing to be delivered within 7-10 days.

Sample Pricing: mailing 1,000 pieces in a #10 envelope that weighs under 1 oz.:
First Class: $.406 per piece – $406 total
Standard: $.279 per piece – $279 total
Nonprofit: $.161 per piece – $161 total

Understanding these costs can help your organization save time and money. Be sure to apply for a nonprofit permit and plan ahead so that the longer delivery time is not a factor in your decision.

  • 9. Most mail houses require that you pay postage up front. This is because there should never be any mark up on postage and mail houses will not cover this cost for you in advance of the invoicing process. So, as soon as the piece is designed, as about mailing costs and be sure to get a check to your printer/mail house quickly so that this does not delay the mailing. If you want to verify that you are being charged the proper amount for postage, you can request a copy of the 3602 form for your mailing. This is the form that is filed with the post office for every job that a mail house sends out.

In conclusion, it is strongly recommended that you create a timeline as part of your company direct mail services process. As you have read, there are many factors to consider, including the right print and mail house for your needs.

Find someone who will be your “expert” and who you can trust.

UnitedGMG - CTA2

They should be willing to walk you through the process, asking productive questions and making suggestions along the way. I hope these steps save you time and money. Good luck!

United Graphics and Mailing Group offers a full spectrum of printing services for all of your editorial, retail marketing, and promotional needs. We can help you with the best mailing list for your business. If you would like to get started on buying the perfect mailing list today, you can contact us at any time.